Cell Phone Sound-Off

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By Robert MacMillan
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, June 30, 2005; 10:18 AM

Boy, did I get an earful! I wrote a column last week -- two in fact -- that highlighted people's irritation when other folks invade their space with cell phone conversations.

In the first, I detailed the latest news in the Federal Communications Commission's consideration of removing a ban on in-flight cell phone conversations. In another, I reported on President Bush's attitude toward journalists who ignore White House staff entreaties to silence their phones, beepers and other communications gadgets.

That column was titled, "The Sound and the Fury," and when I asked readers to share their own, they piled on more words than I've ever seen from Shakespeare or Faulkner. Here's a sample of the best irritation stories I received, as well as some confessions from cell phone users. Enjoy!

  • Larry Mackey, Jackson Township, Ohio: "The passenger behind me [on a flight from Cleveland to Austin] was kind enough to engage the newly found speaker-phone option on his cell phone for not one, not two, but three phone calls! To add to the insult, he had to be personally reminded by the flight attendant that the door was closed before finally shutting it down."
  • Dave Darcey, Somerville, Mass.: "My neighbor died just before 9/11 and his funeral was held at 10 a.m. on the 11th. You know what happened. We heard ringings during the service, hushed conversations, people shushing the talkers, and one by one, people stepped outside. The priest, who did not know about the disaster, kept staring out and missing his place in his sermon."
  • Trudy Christopher, Tucson: "A friend and I were walking behind a guy on the street who seemed to be pretty bowlegged but he was talking loudly on his cell phone, complaining to his girlfriend that his vasectomy had hurt like hell and he wished he hadn't let her talk him into it."
  • Patti O'Donnell, Springfield, Va.: "I was at a conference last week where the speaker advised potential employee applicants to please not answer their cell phones during their interviews with potential employers. She apologized for saying what should be obvious but then described an interview the week before where an applicant not only answered the phone but carried on a two-minute nonsensical conversation."
  • Patrice Brown, Centreville, Va.: "I was using the ladies' room at my place of employment and someone in the stall next to me was loudly carrying on a conversation with her girlfriend about the 'good time' that she had last night with a new boyfriend!"
  • Sue Thomson, Montgomery, Ala.: "I teach lectures and laboratories [at Auburn University]. Not only have I had cell phones ring in class and lab, but I had someone start talking in a small classroom while I was lecturing. I asked her to leave. I now have a full page of course rules that I go over the first day of class. It basically consists of listing appropriate and inappropriate behavior. Cell phones are required to be on 'silent.'"
  • Chris McMahon, Evanston, Ill.: "I participated in the convocation ceremonies at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. A young woman, seated on the stage and facing hundreds of spectators while waiting to receive her master's degree, answered two calls on her cell phone while others were receiving their diplomas. She did not even mute the ringer after the first offense. In addition, she seemed to be using her text messaging or e-mail service throughout the ceremony."
  • Amy Sankaran, Fairfax, Va.: "I was at a movie in Memphis when I heard the ringing of a phone a few rows behind me. Rather than just turning it off or leaving the theater, the phone's owner answered it and talked for a few minutes out loud (including answering the obligatory 'where are you' question, which I maintain is the subject of about 85 percent of cell phone calls). Incredibly, a few minutes later, her phone rang again. And again she answered it and carried on another loud conversation for several more minutes."
  • Linda Kent, Casselberry, Fla.: These people who talk loudly enough on cell phones to be understood by persons around them should not expect privacy. Feel free to butt right in -- I do. If the cellphoner is talking about sex, throw in a few tips. If they're talking business, ask for clarifications as you whip out a notepad. Ask for the spelling of the names."

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